Friend finder, a Facebook feature that scoops up information from your e-mail contact list and then invites people who still aren’t on Facebook to join, has been declared illegal by Germany’s highest court, Reutersreported Thursday.
In a case filed in 2010 by the country’s Federation of German Consumer Organisations (VZBV), the Federal Court of Justice ruled that the friend finder feature is basically advertising harassment — spam, if you like.
Furthermore, the court said Facebook didn’t do enough to inform users on how it was using their contacts’ data.
Since the case is six years old, it’s likely Facebook has since made changes to this feature. Currently, Facebook offers a way to import e-mail contacts within a feature called “Find Friends,” with the following explanation: “Find Friends uploads contacts from your device and stores them on Facebook’s servers where they may be used to help others search for people or to generate friend suggestions for you and others. Professional contacts may be imported but you should only send friend requests to personal contacts.
It’s not entirely clear what this means for Facebook in Germany, though it’s possible the company would have to remove the current iteration of the feature in that country. “What the judgment means exactly for the current Friends Finder, we now have to find out,” said Klaus Mueller, head of the VZBV.
A Facebook spokesperson told Reuters the company is waiting for the formal court decision before it can “assess any impact on our services.”
Companies other than Facebook use similar features to attract new users, and the decision might impact them as well. “In addition to Facebook, other services use this form of advertising to attract new users. They must now probably rethink,” said Mueller.